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Edsall’s Terrapins still a work in progress

Spring practice raises questions

- The Washington Times - Monday, March 28, 2011

Maryland coach Randy Edsall begins his first spring practice with the Terrapins on Tuesday and knows a little more than five months stand between his initial set of drills and the Labor Day season opener against Miami.

More specifically, there are 160 days - none of which Edsall would like to waste.

"We've got a lot of work to do in a short period of time," he said last week.

At a minimum, Maryland has plenty in place. The Terps went 9-4 and won the Military Bowl in 2010, and they return 14 starters (including ACC freshman of the year Danny O'Brien) from a team that more than quadrupled its win total from the previous season.

Nonetheless, former coach Ralph Friedgen was dismissed after 10 seasons and Edsall was hired, with part of his task leaving his own imprint on the program.

That's under way, with several changes on defense. Safety Kenny Tate, an all-conference pick last year, moves to a linebacker-safety hybrid, with former defensive backs Mario Rowson and Desmond Kearse his immediate backups. Demetrius Hartsfield, a two-year starter at weak-side linebacker, shifts to middle linebacker to replace the graduated Alex Wujciak.

Meanwhile, former linebacker David Mackall shifts to defensive end, though he was frequently used as a pass rusher last season.

"The reason we made those changes is we felt that would give those individuals the best opportunity to be successful on the field, which in turn will make us more successful as a team," Edsall said.

Aside from players settling into new positions, the Terps have other issues to sort out this spring. Among them:

Finding a backup quarterback. O'Brien started the final 10 games and threw for 22 touchdowns as a freshman, but only once in the last seven years (2006) has Maryland used the same starting quarterback in every game.

Edsall said Jamarr Robinson, who began 2010 as the Terps' starter, would not return as a fifth-year senior this fall. That leaves sophomore C.J. Brown and redshirt freshman Tyler Smith as Maryland's only scholarship options behind O'Brien. Redshirt freshman Devin Burns, another former quarterback, is now at wideout.

Working with a thin offensive line. It's an annual rite of spring for offensive line coach Tom Brattan to make it through 15 sessions with a short-handed unit. Guard Justin Lewis and tackle Pete DeSouza will miss the spring with injuries, and left tackle Justin Gilbert will be limited initially.

Solving special teams. Travis Baltz was crucial a year ago, handling his usual punting duties while also connecting on 14 of 18 field goals. But now he's gone, and the Terps need to find answers among their specialists. It could be a big spring for Nick Ferrara, who was Maryland's placekicker in 2009 before injury and ineffectiveness cost him his job last year.

Replacing wideouts. Torrey Smith and Adrian Cannon, who combined for 103 receptions last season, are multiyear starters Maryland must replace. Kevin Dorsey, who caught a touchdown in the Military Bowl, is listed as a starter to begin the spring. So are Quintin McCree and Ronnie Tyler, who were declared ineligible for the bowl game.

Tinkering with the defensive line. One of the biggest shake-ups of the new coaching regime comes on the defensive line. Justin Anderson, who started every game as the Terps' strong-side end last year, moves inside and will compete with Joe Vellano at one defensive tackle spot. At the other tackle spot, A.J. Francis, a two-year starter, is listed as a co-starter with veteran Maurice Hampton, who has five career tackles. Zach Kerr, last year's top backup defensive tackle, is listed as a fifth-stringer.

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